BEIRUT: Doctors and nurses at a pediatric hospital in eastern Aleppo scrambled Friday to evacuate babies in incubators from underground shelters to safety after the facility in the besieged Syrian city was bombed for the second time this week.
Medics and aid workers also reported a suspected attack involving toxic gas in a district on the western edge of the province. At least 12 people, including children, were treated for breathing difficulties, said Adham Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society which supports health facilities in Aleppo.
International inspectors have held the government responsible for using chemicals in attacks on civilians which Damascus denies.
Airstrikes also hit a village in a rural area of Aleppo province, killing seven members of a family, including four children, opposition activists said.
Friday was the fourth day of renewed assaults by Syrian warplanes on districts of eastern Aleppo, an enclave of 275,000 people. The onslaught began Tuesday when Syria’s ally, Russia, announced its own offensive on the northern rebel-controlled Idlib province and Homs province in central Syria.
Since then, more than 100 people have been killed across northern Syria.
Friday’s airstrikes in Aleppo hit a complex of four hospitals that had been attacked two days earlier. The latest strikes forced the pediatric hospital and a neighboring facility to stop operating.
“Now it is being bombed. … I am sorry. … I have to go to transfer the children,” the head of the pediatric hospital wrote in a text message to The Associated Press.
The incubators had already been moved underground for safety, but with bombs falling all around the facility, hospital workers had to rush them to a safer place despite the danger.
Nurses rushed to get babies to safety, and one was seen carrying a blanket-wrapped infant. She then hugged and comforted another nurse who was sobbing as she picked up a baby.
Mohamad Abboush, an east Aleppo resident, said that the airstrikes killed two of his relatives, his 45-year-old uncle and 12-year-old cousin, on Friday morning. As they sought medical care for other relatives wounded in the attack, he said they found one hospital in ruins and another in flames.
The airstrike had completely destroyed a four-story apartment block where his relatives had been living in the Tariq Al-Bab neighborhood, he said. The survivors had been taken to houses in another area, but nowhere was safe.
“The whole of Aleppo is being bombed,” he said.
In Geneva, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that if investigators identified who was to blame for the deadly Sept. 19 attack on the UN aid convoy in Syria, the “war crime” could be brought to the UN Security Council.
The US has said it believes two Russian aircraft carried out the strike near Aleppo, which killed 20 people, destroyed a warehouse and 18 trucks, and shattered a one-week truce. Russia has denied involvement.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched an independent board of inquiry into the attack, which UN satellite imagery experts said was an airstrike.
“We now have a three-person board of inquiry. And they are in the area, I believe, and were a couple of days ago, even last week I think, and are working on it,” Eliasson told a news conference.
“Of course we know that it’s a difficult mission because it’s a place where access is very difficult,” he added.
“We know of course that manipulation of evidence can take place and evidence can disappear and so forth.”
Meanwhile, a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance fought fiercely to drive Daesh from a hilltop north of Raqqa — the de facto capital of the terror group.